Are you or a loved one in the process of a divorce? Read our 4 child support tips that may help your case, then contact our Georgia attorneys.
1) Splitting College Costs
Recently, I received a telephone call from a client of mine, very concerned, as his child had just graduated and was moving towards their freshman year, whether he was going to be obligated to pay some of those college expenses. The short answer is no. In Georgia, child support cannot be ordered against somebody after the age of the majority. Remember, in Georgia, child support can continue past their 18th birthday if they’re still in school, but once they graduate high school, then you’re off the hook. In Georgia, you cannot be obligated for college expenses unless you have entered into an agreement with your spouse to do so. During a divorce consultation, we would talk with you, especially if you’ve got any children that are reaching the age of majority, about how you want to handle college expenses.
Ultimately, I do have some clients who agree to pay for college expenses for their children. My advice would be to come in and let me look at your particular case. For most people, I would encourage you not to obligate yourself through a contract to keep up with those expenses after your child has reached the age of majority. Those expenses and obligations cannot be modified by the court. They don’t have the jurisdiction to modify, if you lose your job or become disabled, so, if you agree to cover those college expenses for your child, you will, for all purposes, forever be obligated to do that, regardless of what happens to your job situation, your health, or any other factors that may come along.
Ultimately, Georgia law does not force you to meet those obligations after your child has reached the age of majority, and Georgia law also does not permit a judge to modify those if you’ve taken those on voluntarily. It’s a very critical issue for you during your divorce proceedings to look at your facts and circumstances, your children and whether they’re going to be going off to college and incurring those expenses. Really give that careful consideration before you ever obligate yourself to something that a judge cannot modify later down the road.
2) Modifying Payments
A few weeks ago, I had a call from a past client who had previously been through a divorce and had a child support obligation but really felt that that child support obligation was unfair based on the current situation. Unfortunately, he had experienced a change of employment and his income was reduced significantly, and he could no longer afford his child support obligation. We were able to file a modification in that case. Georgia allows for you to file a modification anytime there’s a significant reduction or increase in the other party’s income or in your income. You can modify your child support obligation, also, every two years in Georgia. Even without a show of changes in financial circumstances, you can do that.
Another way to modify child support would be if you had a change of custody. Maybe your children came to live with you, and that was different than what happened in your prior divorce or custody case, and your child support needs to be modified so it would match what you’re doing with your children in your custody arrangement. In order to modify that support, you, of course, have to file a petition with the court, the judge will have to sign off on any kind of modification of child support, and you would be able to get access to the other party’s records to make sure that it is an accurate calculation. You would also be expected to give over your income records to show details about what your new custody schedule may be, and the court is going to sign off to make sure that your new child support obligation is going to match the calculator and the law in Georgia for any child support.
3) Ex Refusing to Pay
The other day a client was in our office. They were very concerned because we had already been to court for a temporary hearing and child support was awarded to her, however, the other party was not paying. In that circumstance, we can always approach the court and say, “This person is not doing what you told him to do.” At the time of a divorce action, if you’ve been to court and a judge has told that party to do something, you can request a hearing and file a motion with the court outlining that they’re not doing what they were told to do, and the judge would schedule a hearing pretty quickly on that issue.
If that’s happening after your divorce or your prior custody case is already completed, in Georgia, you would have to file a petition or a motion for contempt to hold that party accountable under any prior court order. That would be a new case, as far as a new case number, but you would have the same judge, if that judge is still on the bench, that you had before, and that judge is going to want to enforce their prior order. In that case, it may end in a payment plan, if there are unpaid child support arrears, or it may end in incarceration, if someone is not able or willing to pay child support, or they don’t show up to court, or they don’t cooperate with our requests to see their pay stubs or get information from them.
Contempt actions can have high consequences, so someone could either have a payment plan or could be incarcerated, and it wouldn’t just depend on how much is owed and how long it’s been since they’ve complied with the court’s order. Our judges, especially in our circuit, especially here in Georgia, want you to follow their orders, and they’re going to enforce those. If we have to file a contempt action in order to get child support, under the prior order, the court is going to take into consideration any special circumstances that you have, such as if the spouse left the state or refused to pay, or there are any text messages or recordings that show that they’re doing it on purpose. The courts is going to take the facts and circumstances of your case and, on that sliding scale of repayment versus incarceration, will choose how your case is going to be finalized in any contempt action.
4) Calculating Child Support
The other day I was talking to a new consultation, and they wanted to know how child support is set in Georgia. Luckily for us, as attorneys, Georgia law outlines specifically what factors may be considered. It’s a long list of things, the biggest of which is your gross income – that means what you’re paid before you bring home the money and before taxes and retirement contributions. It really is the large number at the top of your pay stub. Oftentimes, clients are not happy with that scenario because you feel that what you’re putting in your pocket is all that you can afford to pay out. Unfortunately, Georgia does not consider retirement contributions or any of your other charitable giving to come off of the child support number. It’s calculated with your gross income, it considers the other party’s gross income to level things out, and then it’s going to give us our presumptive child support number.
There’s a calculator that’s released by Georgia law. We use that calculator in every initial consultation. If you know your other party’s or your spouse’s income, that helps with us giving you a better accurate description of what your child support obligation may be, but then we look at other special factors that the law can consider, such as if you have health insurance on your children. That’s a big factor. You’re going to get not a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your child support obligation, but you are going to get some reduction. You can also see reductions for daycare expenses that you may cover – that’s a big one – and also any extraordinary expenses that maybe come up. If your child has special needs, special medical needs that have to be addressed, and you cover all those expenses, that may factor into your child support. Those types of things are a little less prominent here. Most of the time, people have daycare or health insurance premiums and their income, and that’s really the only three factors the court considers.
At the end, when you get your presumptive amount of child support based on those factors, the judge can do an upward or downward deviation if for any reason the child support is determined not to be in the best interest of your child, such as if you have a spouse who maybe makes a lot of money. The child support calculator is capped at a certain amount, but the court may decide that the child support should be increased because of their extremely high income, or the court may consider the child’s involvement in special extracurricular activities or other things that maybe are not so common around every child in Georgia.
The child support obligation can always be adjusted at the very end at trial, and we would help look at those facts and circumstances of your case to determine whether the judge would go with the presumptive amount or whether there may be an upward or downward deviation.
Are you or a loved one in the process of a divorce in Statesboro, Springfield, or Swainsboro and have questions? After reading our 4 child support tips that may help your case, contact the experienced Georgia divorce attorneys at Hall & Navarro today for a consultation and case evaluation.
We can help get your life back on track.
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